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So What's My Story?

After 3 years of being a poor social worker (the work I loved, the pay I didn't), I decided it was time to go back to school and get my Master's! After weighing my options (school far away from home, or school in a different country that is only an 8-hour drive from home) I decided to try my luck in British Columbia, Canada.

For a year I lived in
Surrey, BC while attending Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. However, as the final component of my work toward my Masters degree in Criminology I have moved back to the states to complete an internship at an Independent Living Program for youth leaving the foster care system.

Here is the story of my adventures as a graduate student in a "foreign" country as well as my current work back in the states.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Guess the City?


I didn't live in a "city" until I was 26... and now I'm living in another! I love it! =)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Making Everything "American" Again

It was kind of difficult for me when I moved up to BC as far as getting all those little things that a person needs to live in order (i.e. phone, apartment, bank account, etc.). Their system is slightly different than ours, plus I'd never had experienced the extra "fun" that's involved in moving from one country to another. Anyway... I didn't think that moving BACK to the states was going to be as difficult... but it is proving to be.

I received a Graduate Fellowship for the fall term, and I still had about half of my student loan money in a bank account up in BC. This money I was going to need to survive on for my first six months to a year back in the US until I was done with school and able to find a job. But, I did NOT want to withdraw thousands of dollars and carry it with me to my US bank. So, my thought process was that I'd just write myself a check from my Canadian account to my US one. It really shouldn't be THAT big of a deal. So, so, wrong... I didn't know why I didn't learn this after after trying to do the same thing in reverse in Canada.

The bank I went to in Oregon to deposit my check told me that they do about one foreign check transaction per year... thus, no one knew what they were doing. They kept giving me all of these alternative ways that I could transfer my money instead of giving them a check... but I'm one of those people that just get frustrated and confused when there are two many choices. I want either a or b (side note: I enjoy restaurants with SHORT menus... if the menu has more than 3 pages of possible entrees, I get slightly anxious).

Apparently with a foreign check, the US bank needs to send it to a collection agency, which then sends a money request to the foreign bank, who may or may not give up your money. I was told that the process for a Canadian check usually took 2 weeks to a month... but that they couldn't guarantee that it wouldn't take 3, 4, 5 or even 6 months... and, if the check bounced when it finally did get to the bank, there was another fee involved for that.

Now, the 2 weeks to a month thing didn't bother me. I was expecting this. However, the thought that my money could be somewhat "frozen" in my bank account for an undetermined amount of time DID make me nervous. But I didn't really feel like I had any other options. Taking my money out little by little via ATM was going to rack up the transaction fees, not to mention be a BIG pain. Driving up to BC to sign money wire paperwork just seemed ridiculous, and a paypal transfer has a lower conversation fee and other fees attached to it... so, I just went for it. I figured I if I didn't get my money in a month or so, I'd do the paypal transfer and just eat the bounced check fee (I figured it would be less than going to the ATM 20 times in order to get my money that way!).

In the end, let me tell you how EXCITED I was when I signed onto my bank account summary this money and saw that, EXACTLY two weeks later, the money was there, in my account! At a decent exchange rate! Woo hoo!! I can pay my rent now! =)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Summer Term Finally DONE

I have FINALLY finished my summer term paper, an examination of the path that leads foster youth to involvement in crime and how generally effective independent living programs are or may be in reducing the disproportionate number of former foster youth who end up in the CJS. My prof for my independent study extended the deadline since our original plan for a project didn't pan out. So... it is now DONE! (even though the term's classes were done almost a month ago).

I would REALLY love some other than myself and my prof to read it as I spent a lot of time on it and am quite proud of this. Hoping that someone out there will read it and give me some feedback, I have made it available online here, however, google has messed up all my graphics and formatting, so I apologize for that!

P.S. I have not done my final typo edit on this, but it has gone through about three different edits between myself and my prof, so I'm hoping it's good enough for viewers at this point!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moving "Home"

Well, I'm back in the states and have moved into my new place in Oregon, but I thought I'd give you all a recap of my adventures in moving OUT of Canada... It was definitely not what I was expecting as the things I was anticipating to be troublesome (i.e. crossing the border) were not, and the things I thought would be easy (canceling my cable/Internet) were sooo NOT.

First things first, Jacob picked up the Penske rental truck just south of the border in Bellingham on Saturday afternoon. You cannot pick up a rental truck in Canada and return it somewhere in the U.S. Thankfully I had Jacob to help me with this, otherwise I would have had to take a bus across the border, pick up a truck and then drive it back across the border... ugh.

On Saturday Jacob and I did a little bit of packing and "staging" the apartment for the movers, who were coming bright and early on Sunday morning. We didn't have anyone to help us move out, so we decided to spring for movers rather than try to maneuver all the furniture out of the apartment, down the stairs, and puzzle pack it into the truck ourselves. Then we went out and had a nice dinner to celebrate our last night in Canada.

Sunday morning at 9 AM the movers showed up and got to work. They spoke very minimal English, which made the process somewhat difficult. Jacob and I felt kinda weird just sitting around while they moved everything, so, in order to help, and move the process along a bit (they were taking a little longer than I had financially anticipated) we started moving some of the easier to lift things down stairs for them.

During this time I took a break to return my cable and Internet stuff (modem, cable box, etc.). When I called about 2 weeks ago to schedule the cancellation of my services I was told that the local office in Surrey was open 7 days a week from 9-5. I SPECIFICALLY verified that they were open on Sundays. I was told that they were. Then, just to be clear, on Saturday I signed onto the cable's website and checked the hours again for the Surrey location. And, again, I say Sunday 9-5. So... on Sunday at about 10:30 I drove over there only to find a sign on the window that said "Sundays- CLOSED".

Not sure what to do at this point (as we were driving the truck over the border that night and I would not be available to return the stuff on Monday). I called the company, explained my situation and told them they had better change the listing of open hours on their website. They said they would pass that info along (lol.. yeah, we'll see), and then gave me the address of a UPS store in Burnaby where I could drop off the equipment (Burnaby is about a 30 minute drive from my then-apartment). I was told that this store was open from 12-5.

At about noon I set off for this UPS store. I called before I left to try to get better directions but I got the answering machine message, which said their open hours (and I verified 12-5 on Sundays), and the name of the shopping plaza they were in, but said that they were currently with a customer and to leave a message. As I had received the information I needed from the message, I did not leave one and set out on my way.

Half an hour later I show up at the UPS store and, lo and behold... the store is under renovation and closed!

SOOO not my day at this point. I tried calling the cable/internet company again, but the automated message said that they had an excessively high number of callers (probably other pissed off, misinformed customers) and to leave a message with my name and number and they would call back in the order that messages were left. So, I did. And I waited. And I got lunch. And I waited some more. And then I got really annoyed. And then I got a plan.

I hopped back into my car and drove back to the post office that is across the street from my then-apartment. Post offices are open on Sundays... go figure. I boxed up all the equipment and MAILED it back to the cable/Internet company with a rather long note expressing my disappointment in their services and my ordeal. Cost me about $12 in postage, over two hours of wasted time on moving day, and about 30 miles on the road. They had better damn well accept this! Bah!

So, that was out of my way. The mover's finished at a little after noon and Jacob finished loading the truck with the little things, then we started the cleaning process.

When I moved up to BC we were told that an apartment would be available for us on the 1st of Sept. And then we were told that it wouldn't be ready until the 8th. I made a stink about this as I needed to start classes and needed to have a place to live. So, they allowed to let me stay in a "loner" apartment for that week. I slept on the floor and had my computer and a collection of TV dinners to my name. The place was a sty. I don't even think that the carpets had been vacuumed after the last people moved out. It smelled funny and I was altogether grossed out and scared for our apartment (which, fortunately, was in a bit better condition than that one).

I take this side not to explain why we didn't clean to the best of our abilities. lol Don't get me wrong, we thoroughly cleaned things. The fridge looked fantastic after Jacob was done with it. But, we did NOT pay to have the carpets or mini blinds professionally cleaned as was "required" of us upon move out. Nor did I scrub walls, etc., etc. The place was clean. We left it looking very nice, but I"m going to be quite annoyed if we don't get the security deposit back. Especially since I KNOW that the apartment I stayed in temporarily was rented out that way as I had about an hour to move out of it into my new place before a Russian family was scheduled to move in.

By about 5 o'clock we were officially out of the apartment. I dropped off the keys in the office drop slot and we were on our way. We stopped for a quick DQ dinner and then headed for the border. This is what I was really concerned about. We've had such issues with the border in the past I didn't know what to expect. But they let us right through! They didn't even LOOK inside our truck! I was pretty shocked! By 6:30 we were at the gas station in Blaine, WA ready to REALLY start our drive home after saying our final goodbye to life in Canada.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Year in Canada

The last time I drove up back into BC I spotted a U-haul truck just across the Canadian border hauling a car from Oregon. I was reminded of my own move just about one year ago.

Living in Canada and going to school up here has definitely been an interesting experience, and, while I'm looking forward to being back in the states, I have appreciated the new experiences that I've had and people that I've met up here in BC.

As of tomorrow I'll be packing up that moving truck yet again and heading south back into the U.S. (I'm a bit anxious to see what happens at the border... I'll be sure to let you all know how it goes!). I'm still a student at SFU, but I'll be completely my degree program from "abroad". So, this blog may "end" in the next few weeks, or I may continue it as a "Canadian Student in America"... lol

Friday, August 21, 2009

Unemployed!

Well today was the last day of my summer contract as a teaching assistant. Which means that I am currently unemployed... and sooo happy to be so! lol No more dealing with students who are upset that they got an A rather than an A+ or asking for extensions on their assignments because two classes have assignments due on the same day. And, especially, no more reading 12 page papers on prostitution, drug legalization, and pornography!!! YAY! lol I commemorated this by deleting the icon on my computer desktop for the classes website... YAY! =)

In about 3 weeks time I'll be starting the next stage of my Masters program by commencing my practicum placement at an independent living program for young adults. I'm VERY excited about this!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pipe Band World Title!

SFU apparently has one kick ass pipe band. =) On August 15 the band won its 6th world title (second in a row) in Glasgow, Scotland. Read the press release here and see the video below!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Change of Address

As I packed up my life yet again, and get ready to say goodbye to Canada, I am trying to get all of my "affairs" in order. One of those things that you do when you move is fill out a change of address form at the post office. Back home it's not a big deal. You can even take it home and just mail it back to your post office. Easy easy. So, as such, I was expecting the same thing up here. I picked up a form at the post office, filled it out and was going to mail it in, however, I did not see any mailing address indicated on it. So, today, I walked over to the post office to hand deliver it.

To my surprise, changing your address is not the quick and easy experience in Canada as it is in the states. In fact, Canadians have to PAY to get their mail forwarded! If I were to stay in the province it would have cost me about $40 to get my mail forwarded for six months. Since I'm moving out of the province, it was going to cost me $110!!!

Forget that!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Holly Comes to Canada!

It is 8 AM and I have been awake for 3 hours.

The 5 AM wake up was well worth it however, and it meant that I got to spend 3 full days being a tourist in Vancouver with my good friend (and bridesmaid) Holly. I just wish I didn't have to take her to catch the bus back to Oregon today =( But, we had a FANTASTIC time while she was here (and now are very, very sore, and very, very tired! lol)

Day 1: Vancouver Aquarium and a walk/hike through Stanley Park looking for my "lost" car (only to discover I had a parking ticket =P).

Night 1: Partied it up at the Blarney Stone in Gastown. Danced to some FANTASTIC Irish, classic rock and Motown music... SOOO much fun!





























Day 2: Woke up early after a late night out to go kayaking on Bowen Island. Parkade at the bay was FULL as were the other two parking lots... I parked in a 3 hour parking spot (for six hours) and prayed I wouldn't get my second parking ticket of the weekend... the Gods were smiling down at me! No ticket! =) And I FANTASTIC day out on the water!

** This is Boyer Island! lol I was so exited! I have my own island! =)

Night 2: Dinner at the Sushi Garden and then home to REST! lol

Day 3: Playland Amusement Park in Vancouver! I went on a number of rides and didn't get sick at ALL! lol Though, I was very sure to do the upset-the-tummy rides PRIOR to eating all the carnival food =)

Night 3: Freezing indoor pool soaking back at my apartment (don't know why the heater never seems to work when I want to swim), and then more relaxing... Holly's last night... had a blast! Gonna miss her and my stay-cation!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Summer Day in British Columbia...

Here I am on a cool summer day sitting in my apartment, grading final exam papers, listening to my neighbor practice the bag pipe...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Nice to Feel Appreciated

This note from my student today could NOT have come at a better time for me. I've been alone up in BC for almost a week now and I'm starting to feel it. I have a ton of undergrad papers to grade, a paper of my own to write, and an apartment to pack up in the next three weeks... and no motivation to do any of it. So, it was nice to find this message in my inbox today:

Hi Brittney,

I just wanted to say thanks for a great semester and you were a great TM. The class was extremely interesting and you helped a ton with your responses. I think I would have just gotten way too confused with my own thoughts if you didn't clear things up.

Anyhow, I just wanted to wish you the best of luck in the future.

Cheers.



Thursday, July 30, 2009

I am NOT Going to Miss the Border

I HATE crossing the border. Even though I know that I'm doing nothing wrong, I still get this mini-anxiety attack when I pull up to their little window. They ask so many questions. I know they are trying to trip you up. Where are you going? What's in that bag? Where do you live? How long will you be gone? But the question that got me this last time that I crossed back into the U.S. was, "Do you have any cat food?"

I ALWAYS tell them when I have my cat in the car (the last thing I need is to get pulled over for trying to smuggle a life animal over the border), but no one has EVER asked me if I had cat food (in all actuality, I thought they'd have more problems with the kitty litter box on the back seat).

I told them that yes, I had cat food. How much? A couple cups. Is it in the original packaging? No... I pour it into a Tupperware container. By this point I am getting really confused. Then the guy sticks this orange post-it note thing on my wind shield and tells me to park my car and go see someone at the agriculture desk inside (and he TAKES MY PASSPORT.... this worried me a bit).

My mother was with me on this trip, so we park the car and the two of us head into the building... still not quite sure what's going on. We stand in line behind a large family that appears to be of some eastern European decent (and also appears very confused). There is no one at the counter helping them, though they appear that they have been helped and are waiting for someone to return. So, Mom and I wait. Finally one of the immigration officers tells us to step to the other counter where another office is working on something. So, we go over there. And, without a word, the officer that was there picked up and left... never to be seen (by us) again. And, we wait some more.

FINALLY this woman comes up and asked if we'd been helped. I was not happy to see this particular woman... she was the same one who tried to fine me $300 for an apple. She took my little post it. And told me that I wasn't suppose to bring cat food into the country because it may have lamb in it (...so?). And then she just stared at me! lol I asked her what my options were and she told me that I could either turn around and take it home, or she would dispose of it. After sitting in line at the border for over an hour, I was most definitely NOT going to turn around and take 4 cups of cat food back home. So I told her to go ahead and get rid of it. Then she asked me which car was mine and where the cat food was. I told her and she told us to remain inside.

I could see her from the window... and she inspected my entire car. Even popped the trunk even though I'd told her that the cat food was in the back seat. My mother, somewhat naively, seeing the women poke around in my trunk asked if she should go out and tell the woman where it was. I told her NO. lol... the last thing I needed was for my mother to walk outside against a border officer's orders and get detained for further questioning! Finally the woman brought my cat food inside, dumped it out, handed me the container back and told me that she'd left the small amount of food that was actually in his food dish.

Wow... wasn't that nice? lol

And we were on our way again...

Fast forward to weeks later, crossing back into Canada...

The signs along the freeway said that the wait at the border would be about 10 minutes. I was very pleased about this as I had been driving for a LONG time. I stopped in Blaine, got some gas, and then drove a few more blocks to the Hwy 543 border crossing. Right before the lanes split cars were backed up. One by one border agents were letting cars drive through a check point; every 5th car or so they stopped and had their drug dogs sniff around. I was so worried that they were going to stop me and the dogs were going to freak out 'cause I had a cat in the back seat! lol (I know this is highly unlikely since they are trained drug dogs, but they thought still crossed my mind). Thankfully, I wasn't stopped and continued on to.

There were about 4 lanes open at the border, two on the right, and two on the left. Right in the middle (in a now-closed lane), about one car length from the window, was an RV... with a tow truck in front of it trying to hook it up! lol I would NOT want to be those people!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's Been Awhile

I've been neglecting my blogs recently... I blame this primarily on the fact that a lot has been going on in my life these last few weeks, and that I was rather upset by a comment that was posted on one of my posts a few weeks back. This comment was rather rude and insinuated that I was making too many generalizations about the Canadian population (however, at the same time turning their nose up at me and my Americanism).

I thought about this for a little while and I do not believe that I am making "generalizations" but rather "observations". I am not capable of meeting EVERYONE in Canada (or any other geographic area for that matter!). As a visitor to a country I make observations about the culture dependent on what I see on a day to day, random basis. My blog is not full of generalizations. I am not saying that "all Canadians like hockey", but rather, like any researcher, I have to come to some sort of conclusion based on a small, random sample. "Hockey is a larger part of life in Canada than in the U.S."... this is not a generalization, this is an observation (this is not the specific post that my commenter commented on, just an example).

So... yeah... that my little spurt of upsetedness. =) Now back to your regularly scheduled programming! =)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dinosaurs?

My mom is up visiting me this week... getting the chance to experience the Canadian way of life (more on her visit later).

She called back home tonight and talked to my 4-year old nephew on the phone. He, apparently, asked where she was, and this is how the conversation went (at least, the one side that I could hear):

Mom: We're up in Canada. Can you say Cana...

(4-year old babble)

Mom: Are there dinosaurs up here? I don't know... I haven't see any... but I'll keep my eyes open for them!

lol.... gotta love little kids, and their wonderful cultural perceptions =)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

ANOTHER New Blog!

As some of you may already know, last weekend my boyfriend, Jacob, asked me to marry him! We are so excited, and I'm very much looking forward to the wedding planning. As such, I have created ANOTHER new blog (I will try to keep up all THREE as best as I can!)

Sand Dollars and Sunflowers: Musings of a soon-to-be, barefoot on the beach bride!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hiding in Plain Sight?

Most of the time I don't really question the U.S. government... sure, I think some of their policies are odd and inefficient, but I rarely see something in action and think, "What the Hell are they doing??"

I had one of those times driving through Washington a couple weekends back.

Driving up I-5 I saw, behind me and in the next lane, a white SUV with the word "Police" on it. Since, obviously, I was speeding, I quickly tried to slow down undetected. By doing this, I slowed down to the same speed as the SUV (which ultimately passed me) and I was able to read the rest of the writing on the side and rear of it.

"Department of Homeland Security-- Federal Protection Services"...

Isn't this, like, a bulls eye?? Shouldn't they be transporting important witnesses in unmarked vehicles with tinted windows?

I was definitely wondering, "what the hell??"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I'M MARRIED!!!!

Or, rather, I'm in a "Common-law Union"... which the government acknowledges after one year of living with your partner, and, thus, if Jacob wanted to, could get the same benefits/etc. that I get from the Canadian government (health insurance, etc.) A lot better system (I think) than in the U.S... though I think it might be getting better down there.

So... do I still gifts for this milestone? lol... I'll have to check on that! =)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hey!

Does Middle Eastern polka exist? 'Cause I think that's what my neighbors are playing...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Buzzing Bank

I saw this story on the news last night... it's just SOO frustrating to me... instead of spending money to help people, let's treat them like rodents and buy devices to keep them away...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What a Way to Go...

I know that the death of a 14-year-old girl is not a laughing matter... and I am not intending any disrespect, however any of you who have seen the show Dead Like Me and appreciate the morbid humor of "freak accidents" need to see this article that I ran across today.


Woof!

Walking through the secured hallway of the criminology department you can peek into a number of different offices and see door-way baby gates. No, it is not "bring your child to work day". On the contrary, this is not a random occurrence... this is a regular phenomenon. Behind these baby gates are not babies, at least not by regular standards, but, rather, pooches. Bringing your dogs to work is, apparently, not something to even bat an eye lash at up here. Plus, it's an excuse to take a walk and get some fresh air every hour or so.

Just a moment ago I went to use the rest room. Upon returning to the computer lab, in the hall in front of me stood a standard poodle, head tilted, as if to say, "Hey.... How's it going?"


No Line?

On June 1st the new passport requirement went into effect on the Canadian/US border. This has been YEARS in the making... now, in order to cross the border into/out of the U.S., you MUST have a passport. Before you just needed ID and proof of citizenship (birth certificate).

As I've said, this has been years in the making... the effective date has been pushed back time after time, so, I figured that it wouldn't really be that big of a deal when it actually happened, but, that was just the American in me a guess. Here's the deal... according to one news article more than half of Canadians currently have a passport... while less than 1/3 of Americans do. So? You may ask. Well, here's the problem. Canada, particularly the border cities, rely heavily on American tourism, specifically during the summer travel time. With only 30% of Americans having passports that means fewer people crossing the border and less money coming into the Canadian tourism economy.

None of this really occurred to me yesterday as I was crossing the border back into Canada after a trip home. I approached the border and there were NO CARS waiting... in ANY of the open lines. There was one car other than myself going through the Nexus line... but I drove right up to the window. Being an American, not considering anything, I made some comment to the border agent that I don't think I've ever seen it that empty before! She just sadly smiled at me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Blog

So, I've started a second blog. After a conversation with an old friend of mine about how I'd like to someday write a book about my experiences in my field but worried that I could fill up a whole book, I decided to start small with a collection of vignettes. Perhaps someday they will make their way into publication, but, for now, they are just memories, written down, before I am no longer able to recall all of the ridiculous situations I have found myself in! =)

Read my collections of ramblings at: The Rabbit Hole

Friday, June 5, 2009

And The Fun Begins...

The kitchen is clean, the bathroom is clean, the living room is cleaning... clothes are packed, "school work" is packed, cat stuff is packed... I have my camera, tooth brush, cell phone.... I am ready to go... on what is going to be a VERY chaotic week and a half. It would be FANTASTIC if the border wait went quickly... as I don't really need any more stress right now!

Here's my schedule.... down to Portland today, stay the night with Jacob's bro, head to Eugene tomorrow spend the day with my fam, down to Coquille on Sunday for a graduation celebration for Jacob's cousin,Monday and Tuesday in Eugene, Wednesday back to Portland, Thursday I have an interview for my practicum (FINALLY), Friday to Pendleton for my brother's graduation, Saturday back to Portland, and then three days (yay!!) staying in the same place until I come back up to BC on Tuesday.... *sigh* I'm tired just thinking about it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Crossover" Episodes

I don't know if this is just a coincidence, but in the last week I have seen two US based TV shows that have decided to do a story line revolving around Canada... King of the Hill's "Uh-Oh Canada" and the season finale of Criminal Minds.

In King of Hill, Boomhauer signs up for a Home-swap program with a Canadian family. He goes north, and has a romantic vacation with a Francophone, and the swapping family comes down to Texas where they complain about American beer, synthetic fabrics and noise when they are trying to read... turning off everyone in the neighborhood (expect Bobby, who learns to appreciate the metric system). Ultimately, Hank and the Canada Dad get into a game of chicken on lawn mowers, drunk, landing them both in jail with DUIs. I don't usually watch KOTH... a friend of mine told me about the episode... and it wasn't fantastic, but it had it's good parts (a couple things that I could definitely relate to!)

Criminal Minds had a case that, I believe, was loosely based on the Robert Pickton murders that happened up here in BC (and is currently still going through the trial/appeal process). Premise: Pig farmer kidnaps "untouchables" in society (homeless, drug addicts, prostitutes), brings them back to his farm, murders them, and feeds the remains to his pigs. The TV show took it a bit farther and made it into a manipulative paraplegic doctor convincing his huge, mentally retarded (think "Of Mice and Men") brother to do the actual dirty work and then utilize their spinal fluid to try to somehow "fix" the brother's condition. I didn't get nearly has many laughs at Canadian stereotypes from this show (but, then again, it's not a comedy), but there were a couple of relate able Canadianisms to be had! =)

All in all, if you haven't seen them yet... I recommend taking a look! =)

Surrey... the good, the bad, and the... beautiful! =)

Whenever I tell someone, for the first time, that I live in Surrey BC the response is generally something along the lines of a worried face or an, "oh I'm so sorry". Surrey is, unofficially, known as the headquarters for gang activity and drug dealing. While I do admit that on an almost nightly basis I see, what I suspect to be, drug dealing going on beneath my bedroom window, I think Surrey has a bad wrap.


By pure land area, Surrey is the largest city in the lower mainland, and the second largest in terms of population... so, doesn't it then make sense that it's risk for more "bad" stuff would be greater than other areas? That's my retort! lol It's funny how, after only living in a city for 9 months, I can already feel so attached to it. Attached enough to stick up for my neighborhood! =)

I feel blessed to have accidentally moved into this area, even it is the drug/gang/crime capital of the lower mainland... because this area also happens to be beautiful and full of wonderful outdoor opportunities for these few sunshine-y days that we've been having so far this spring. Officially, Surrey is known as the City of Parks. There are over 400 parks in this city which encompass more than 3,000 acres of land. Take a look at this map... this is my neighborhood. The section that you're looking at is only about 7.5 miles across... check out all the parks.




The two big ones you see, Green Timbers Urban Forest and Tynehead Regional Park, are both what this area calls "urban forests"... forests in the middle of the city... bordered on all sides by traffic and sirens and the bustle of the city, the moment you walk into the park you are suddenly in a forest with trees, lakes, creeks, wildlife and hiking trails. It's fantastic! I love it!

A few months back Jacob and I set out to explore Green Timbers, and last weekend we hit up Tynehead. It really is just a little bit of heaven to be out in the "woods" listening to the running creek, breathing in the fresh air, and watching squirrels running around "playing" with each other (Jacob insists they were doing something a little less PG, but I prefer not to think like that!) and then, after a nice hike, being home in less than 15 minutes.




May 2-4

This is Memorial Day weekend back home and I am in a country that doesn't recognize it... in all actuality, had it not been for all the "Going camping this weekend!" status updates on facebook, I would probably have no idea that it had come and gone! However, being in Canada, I was able to (somewhat) experience this country's version of a holiday in May... Victoria Day. This weekend, apparently originally intended as a day to honor Queen Victoria's birthday and that of whichever other Monarch is currently on the throne (no matter when his/her ACTUAL birthday is), has since become a day to become incredibly wasted. When I asked a classmate if anything exciting happens in Victoria, BC over the holiday weekend, her response was:

"I don't know if anything specific happens in Victoria, but this long weekend is typically a weekend to drink your face off, hence it's nickname 'May 2-4'. :)"

Yes, this weekend (also commonly referred to as "May Long Weekend"... they are VERY original over here) is nicknamed "May 2-4" due to the fact that it occurs SOMEWHERE around the 24th of May... but, more importantly, because beer comes in packs of 24. =)

While Jacob and I didn't join the masses camping and "drinking our faces off", we did do a little something out of the ordinary and went to the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair (you can take the girl out of the country, but can't take the country out of the girl!) We had a pretty good time watching the rodeo events, fair performances and people of all ages trying to stay on a mechanical bull... not to mention partaking in the fair food. They had your traditional funnel cakes (Yay!!!), hot dogs, lemonade, etc. But, I don't know that I've ever been to a fair where Greek food was a vendor option.

The rodeo was kind of a trip, too! At rodeos back home, we don't really rely on other countries for competitors... but Canada does. I would make a rough estimate that only about 1/3 of those riding were actually from Canada, the rest were from the good ol' USA. Even the rodeo announcer was a Texan. Because of this we sang both the American National Anthem and the Canadian Anthem, O Canada!. But the US was not the only "foreign" country present. They also had a "cowboy" from Mexico performing mid-rodeo entertainment with his horses. It was quite the interesting experience... including the security officials... some of which were police officers wearing turbans (nothing wrong with this, just not something I'd see back home), and Mounties in their "official" dress (you know what I'm talking about!).






Friday, May 15, 2009

New Layout

I was ready for a new look to my blog.... but it totally messed up all my layouts... so, if you're reading an old post and the pictures are cut off/weird, sorry... they looked good when I did it the first time! =)

Vancouver Barbie

One of my classmates posted this on facebook... it made me laugh. =)
I live in Surrey...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

-er or -re?

I just typed the word "centre" without even having to THINK about the order of the last two letters... does that make me Canadian now?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Croc-en-cannelle, s'il vous plait?

I don't really feel like I'm living in a "foreign" country on a day to day basis. All the pomp and circumstance I had to go through to live up here (not to mention every time I cross the border) seems a little silly to me as I'm JUST in Canada. I feel like the only culture shock that I've really had to deal with up here is from small, homogeneous city to BIG, diverse city.

And then I go to the grocery store and I get a little bit of a reminder that I'm no longer in good ol' Oregon...



Seems a bit classier in French, don't it? lol




Everything in the grocery store is in both English and FRENCH over here... not going to find dual language Spanish stuff very easily up here... and my parents didn't think I'd ever use my French... well, by the time I'm done up here, I'll at least be able to order my favorite cereal! =)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Canadians Take Honolulu!

Jacob and I decided to take a, somewhat, spontaneous vacation to Hawaii during my break between terms. We were sooo tired of the cold, wet weather and wanted to get away from it for awhile. So, on April 28th we flew to Honolulu for 4 days in a tropical climate!

Guess what we found there? Canadians. EVERYWHERE!

Our shuttle to Hanauma Bay was full of Canadians (Edmonton, Toronto and Chilliwack). At a burger joint for lunch one day the group at the table next to us was from somewhere in Canada. We turned on the TV in our hotel and there was the Canucks. Everywhere we turned, every tour we went on, there were Canadians! I guess we weren't the only ones who needed a break from the extended winter! We got back up to BC earlier this week and I started preparing for the new term and getting the online class that I"m a teaching assistant for organized. My students are all suppose to post an introduction on the website so I know they are up and running. One of my students introduced himself by saying, "I just got back to BC after a vacation in Hawaii"... lol


On another note, we had a fantastic time on our shot visit to Oahu. We went snorkeling at Hanuma Bay, drove mopeds around the island and through the mountains up to Pali Lookout, climbed Diamond Head, took a horseback trail ride on a ranch on the North Shore, walked the beaches of Waikiki and the eastern shore of the island, and rented a convertible to drive around and explore on our final day. We came home with lots of memories... and some pretty massive sunburns!




Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hong-couver

Some see the this Vancouver nickname as derogatory as it refers to the large number of Chinese and other Asian immigrants in the area due to many waves of immigration throughout history, however, about 1/5 of the population of the Vancouver-metro area are from Chinese decent (other Asian ancestries are in addition to this). Approximately 1/2 of Vancouverites have a language other than English as their first language (with Asian languages being at the top of the list).

I hear a variety of Asian languages spoken every day. I've seen a man on the skytrain reading a newspaper with characters rather than letters. And today, why checking out the bulletin board at school, I saw at least half a dozen notices that looked a lot like this:


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Canadian Tax Returns... Boggles the Mind

My Canadian tax returns were waiting for me when I returned from my brief hiatus to Hawaii (more on that later). As always, it's nice to get a little bit of "free" money. But here's the interesting part; Apparently I made a mistake on my return and they sent me a statement explaining the correction they made and the new amount they calculated... which turned out to be MORE than I had originally figured I should be getting. I kinda like this Canadian system... lol

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Country DOES Exist in the Vancouver Metro Area! =)

After my biking expedition through Stanley Park a couple weeks ago, I sought out other bike friendly areas to ride in interesting locations. I found a number of routes that I want to take, but one that looked the most intriguing with Barnston Island.

Barnston Island is located in the middle of the Fraser River with no direct road access to the mainland. If you want to get over there you have to take a small "ferry" across the water (really just a tug boat pulling a 3-car barge). According to Wikipedia, the Island's population is about 155, 40-some of which live on the small Native reservation on one corner of the island.



View Larger Map

The island is primarily residences and farmland, though we did see a small dairy and there is also a picnic ground/park, however, because there is no "reason" for people to come to the island, there is no public parking available, so if you don't live there and want to explore, the only real way to do so is by bike or on foot. The single road that goes around the island is about 9.8 kilometers (a little over 6 miles). As you ride/walk, you have the river on one side and farm land on the other. I saw farm animals (in their "natural" habitat) for the first time in MONTHS! lol.














There is also a small reservation on the island of the Katzie First Nations. It was kind of interesting riding through this area. It didn't appear to be any different than the rest of the area, with the exception of the skin color of the residents we saw walking around, the loose dogs on the street (I got chased briefly by a chihuahua... if any of you know me, you know that's likely to give me a panic attack! lol), and what looked like a very small, very dilapidated school house and playground.

The island also has a small park on the west side. You can tell the water is low right now, which lent itself to a sandy beach and lots of exposed logs. I was surprised at how many people were at the park... after not really seeing anyone the whole time (except for a few kids on the reserve and other cyclists), we saw a couple and their dog on the beach and then another half dozen or so gathered in the wooded area. Jacob guessed that they were gathering mushrooms... maybe it's just the criminologist in me, but when I see half a dozen people gathered in a wooded area out of direct sight from oncoming foot traffic... I get a little nervous! lol

If I was staying in Canada longer and wanted to own property, this is the place I would do it. It is SUCH a cute, quiet community... incredibly peaceful... yet only 10 minutes from the freeway into the big city. Or, you can take the ferry over the "mainland" and it's just a little over a mile to a bus stop! I could SOO do that! lol

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Did It!

I did it!!


Cooked my first turkey EVER!!! AND it was edible! =)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holidays


It's been a bit of an adjustment getting use to holidays up here in BC... very few of them are scheduled the same time as those back home, and some that we have at home just don't exist in BC. I have been forced to take a four day weekend this week for Easter. The good people of BC observe Good Friday and "Easter Monday"... I say I'm forced because I actually did have stuff I needed to do tomorrow, and, as Canadians are less consumeristic than Americans, practically EVERYTHING is closed on government holidays... including grocery stores apparently. I knew about Easter Monday, but I was unaware that Good Friday is a government holiday up here, so I'm just hoping our grocery store is open sometime before Easter 'cause I'm cooking my first turkey and I need to buy stuff for it!

Here are some other government holidays I've had to figure out ...

Victoria Day... celebrated May 18th this year
Canada Day... July 1st
BC Day... August 3rd this year
Thanksgiving... MONDAY, OCTOBER 12th (BEFORE HALLOWEEN... NOT RIGHT!)

The Canadians have the same Christmas, New Years, Halloween, Easter... and they have equivalents to our Labor Day, Veterans Day... though no Memorial Day, and because Thanksgiving is more than a month earlier in BC, my mom had to reschedule our Thanksgiving for me since I HAD CLASS on that day! lol They also don't celebrate their independence on July 4th as we do, but they have plenty of fireworks on their other "days" (Victoria, Canada and BC)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Beautiful Vancouver Day as a Tourist!

I had a FANTASTIC tourist weekend in my own neighborhood! =) The weather was wonderful, and there was finally a few days without snow/rain in the forecast so Jacob and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to explore a bit. We're going to be crossing the border again in a couple weeks and we're not sure if he'll be able to come back over when we return in May (we've had some border crossing issues recently), so we wanted to do some of those things that we (read "I" lol) have wanted to do before we leave Canada for good.

Saturday we got together with friends to bike along the seawall at Stanley Park. It was a still a bit chilly (it is April after all), but the sun was shining and the view was fantastic. It only took us an hour and half from start to stop (with lots of stops for snacks and photo ops along the way). This was NOT long enough! I wanted to keep going! lol But no worries, when I got home I browsed around online and found a bunch of other bike routes I want to take this summer! =)




Sunday Jacob and I decided to take a trip out to the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Van. The bridge is only a few minutes outside of downtown Vancouver in the West Coast Rainforest. The bridge spans about 450 feet across and 230 feet above the Capilano River. I've never been on a bridge like that before! I did NOT particularly like the bridge swaying beneath me! I kept blaming Jacob for making it move... but he was quick to point out the dozens of other people walking across the bridge as well! lol




Added to the fact that Jacob surprised me with a spontaneous date to the movies last night AND I have finished all of my schoolwork for the term and took the weekend to relax before I start marking undergrad papers... I had a WONDERFUL weekend!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Superheros Take Vancouver!

OK, so this news is a couple years old, but it came up in one of my classes this term and I thought it a humorous story. =) This is, apparently, how dads in Vancouver, BC prove that they are *responsible* citizens and capable of having custody of their children....

P.S. Apparently there's been MULTIPLE instances of this country wide...

Fathers 4 Justice Canada in Action

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Seven Months... Sweet Deal!

Today I had my LAST CLASS EVER! This is very weird for me seeing as I only started my master's program in September, and I still have a full year left until I have completed my degree requirements... but for that next year I am, pretty much, working completely independently and never have to attend another class again.

So weird!

Refried Beans!

I had Mexican food this weekend! lol.... this may not seem noteworthy to most of my friends and family back home, but Mexican food isn't a staple of Canadian life like it is in the U.S. There is not a Taco Bell/Time on every street corner, and you can NOT find refried beans in the supermarket! So, when a group of friends/classmates decided that we were all going to go to UBC to hear Robert Hare give a lecture on psycholpathy Saturday night (yeah, we're hip like that!) and I saw there was a Mexican place in the trendy, Kitsilano vicinity of Vancouver (on the way to the lecture), I suggested a little "south of the (two) border" cuisine. We went to Las Magaritas... and it was GOOD. I didn't get my refried beans (I'm not obsessed with these, I swear, you just don't realize how much you actually enjoy something until you can't find it anywhere!), but I did get a good quesadilla, sangria, chips and salsa and guacamole! Woo hoo! I feel so much better now! =)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Molson's Canadian "Code"

One thing I have noticed about Canadian television and commercials is how patriotic they are. Everything is "Canadian this" or "Canadian that"... I don't know if they are just VERY proud of their heritage or trying to prove to that they are NOT American. Either way, the following commercials for Molson's Beer are good examples.

I am not a fan of beer, but these commercials and their "Code" for being a Canadian are pretty funny!

Code #1


Code #2


Code #3

Monday, March 16, 2009

Is It Really Not Getting Any Better?

I just had the most depressing experience at the grocery store this afternoon. I had just turned into an aisle when I heard a man talking to this woman about his elementary aged son and some upcoming sports season. He said that his son was going to be "nasty" this year, and the woman made some comment about how you always have to look out for the quiet ones. And then the father said that they would definitely be looking out for his son has long as he didn't run like a "fairy" and the woman turned to the kid and said, "You're not going to run like a fairy are you?" They were having this conversation like it was completely normal and not the least bit offensive and disgusting... I really thought civilized society was getting better then than this... but what I just experienced today is discrimination being passed on to the next generation...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Trip to Hope

I want to see Hope...
British Columbia that is.

When we first moved up here I'd see the signs on the freeway all the time "Hope 130 km"... maybe that's part of the reason that Vancouver appealed to me so much... it's proximity to Hope.

** Which, in all actuality, has a lot of truth to it.



Since my time in Canada is coming so close to an end (I should be back in Oregon this September) I've decided that I really want to take the 2 hour drive to see what Hope is all about. I've checked their website and looked at pictures of the area... beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I think i want to wait until the summer though (or, at least until I can be sure it won't snow on me) and go camping... I'm having a craving for camping recently...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Beautiful BC Day

Today was GORGEOUS! Still cold as F***, but just beautiful to enjoy in a nice warm jacket, gloves, hat and scarf! I had to take a trip up the "mountain" to my school this afternoon... here's some photos I took along the way (I took them with my phone, most AS I was driving, so please forgive some of the crappy angles!)


This is the view from my campus

Coming off the mountain... I just like the rearview shot of the forest behind me

The mountains looking over "my river".... (Fraser River)

Monday, March 9, 2009

My School is Famous!

Apparently SFU is a favorite for filming locations... Cool. =)

Curling... For Canadians Who Find Hockey Too Violent

So I was at a pub tonight having a wonderful burger with all kinds of great stuff on it, watching the Canucks vs. LA Kings hockey game on the big screen, and I happened to notice a curling competition being broadcast on one of the other TVs. I knew this activity existed, I've heard of people participating in curling before... but I don't know that I've ever actually seen it... nor do I think, even after watch a bit of it, that I have any idea what they are doing! lol Looks like shuffleboard on ice...

Apparently Canada won the world championship in 2008 for curling though (both men AND women's teams), so it must be a pretty big deal! Here's a video of part of the men's 2008 championship match...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Elk Crossing!

Care of my friend Holly... gotta love this! =)


WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?
If You Build It, THEY Will Come....


This is the actual turn-off From Banff, Alberta, Canada to the #1 highway to Calgary .

Great picture isn't it? They had to build the animals their own crossing (especially the elk) because that was where the natural crossing was and after the highway was built there were far too many accidents.

It didn't take the animals long to learn that this was their very own bridge!
And then you have some people saying'Animals are stupid.